chemotherapy

Your gut health balance affects chemo treatments

Your ability to maintain a diverse, thriving gut microbiome by eating the right foods, using antibiotics only when you must and taking a multi-species probiotic ensures it is capable of protecting your overall health even when the worst case scenarios happen.

Like cancer.

A growing number of studies are showing how gut health is an important part in helping chemotherapy and anti-tumor drugs do their job to eradicate cancer.

No gut bacteria, no luck

A pair of studies cited in a 2014 American Cancer Society report compared the effect of specific kinds of cancer therapies — drugs, immunotherapy and platinum chemotherapy — based on its effect on germ-free mice lacking gut bacteria or animals treated with antibiotics.

No surprise, in both studies, these cancer-fighting weapons were much more effective with mice that had good gut health.

The results were most apparent in a study conducted by the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in testing the cancer drug cyclophosphamide.

In this study, researchers discovered cyclophosphamide worked best in healthier bodies because the drug affected the composition of their microbiomes that generates more immune cells and eliminates tumors.

The importance of gut health diversity before chemo

A more recent study, a collaboration by researchers at M.D. Anderson’s Infectious Diseases department and the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, shows how gut diversity can be so vital to the health of cancer patients even before they begin induction chemotherapy.

Scientists examined stool and oral samples taken from 34 patients with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) at three-day intervals during a 26-day course of chemotherapy.

Also, all patients were given antibiotics, no friend to good gut health, at least five times over more than six days. The concern: Physicians treat neutropenic fever, a common problem among AML patients on chemotherapy when body temperatures rise above 100˚, with antibiotics.

Interestingly, a third of the patients who maintained the diversity of their gut health or improved it experienced no infections over a 90-day span. However, 23 of the 34 patients experienced a drop in diversity over the same time and nine suffered from infections.

In fact, lead researcher Dr. Jessica Galloway-Pena of M.D. Anderson says she wants to use the human gut microbiome “as a tool” to spot which patients need extra treatments, or be prescribed a special diet, fecal transplant or probiotics, according to Medscape Medical News.

“I really think it’s not just one (species). I think it’s the community (of species) that strikes a balance. That’s why I’m not that big a proponent of probiotics with one species. I really think it’s going to be a cocktail of species that’s going to improve your outcome,” says Dr. Galloway-Pena in a recent YouTube video about her study.

This provides more evidence that taking a probiotic containing just one species of beneficial bacteria can do some good, but not nearly as much as one that contains multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Junior.

Strengthen Your Immunity During Chemotherapy

Our newsletter recently reported that probiotics slow growth of cancerous tumors and improve outcomes of bone marrow transplant patients fighting blood cancer.

For Part 2 of this series on probiotics and cancer, we take a closer look at the role that gut health and probiotics play in strengthening immunity during chemotherapy.

In many cases, chemotherapy is a necessary tool many medical experts use to fight cancer that harms as often as it helps. Research shows that good gut health, promoted by taking a probiotic containing multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, may make a difference in protecting the health of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

Good Gut Health Protects Chemotherapy Patients

A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry uncovered a biological mechanism that protects the gastrointestinal tracts of mice given lethal doses of chemotherapy.

High doses of chemotherapy are often the only treatment for patients with late-stage metastasized cancer. This poses a great challenge to patients and doctors as higher dosages can kill healthy cells before eliminating a tumor, says Dr. Jian-Guo Geng, associate professor at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Geng’s team of researchers identified a key protein in the intestinal stem cells of mice (Robo 1) that binds with certain proteins that accelerated intestinal regeneration and repair of their gut, thus protecting their overall health.

The extra stem cells produced by this process protected their digestive tracts, enabling test animals to consume more nutrients, prevent bacterial toxins from entering the bloodstream and withstand higher doses of chemotherapy.

Between 50-75 percent of the mice treated with the Robo 1 molecule survived lethal doses of chemotherapy. All of the mice that didn’t receive the molecule died.

Probiotics May Treat Common Chemotherapy Symptoms

A review of evidence in a 2011 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests probiotics may provide benefits for the treatment of mucositis, one of the more common and harsher side effects of chemotherapy.

Mucositis is a painful inflammation and ulceration process that affects the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract and oral cavity of patients receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Although there are no established treatment plans for mucositis (due to the multiple factors that contribute to it) researchers found probiotic-based therapies can offer good health benefits, including the protection of gut bacteria and the inhibition of inflammatory cytokines (proteins that help in cell signaling).

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